Neuroscience institute puts patient care first

Askmelah’s Note: This is 1997 forum opinion article that I happen to chance upon. This article reflects her integrity and her genuine care for patients under her charge. This contrasts greatly with many doctors (including our public or some may say not-so-public hospitals) here who place special attentions to well paying patients and making money their priority instead of the callings of a doctor to provide good quality and affordable healthcare to all esp those with less means.

Source:, 1997

I READ the letter by Dr Ranjiv Sivanandan, ‘Patient care should drive policy, not vice versa’ (ST, March 9). I disagree that in all restructured (i.e., public-sector) hospitals doctors and departments are recognised first and foremost for the number of private patients they bring in.

While it is true that block funding makes it essential that all of us working in public hospitals observe financial prudence, we at the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) have always put patient care first. Not only do I remind all staff, whether medical or administrative, of that fact, but I also personally set an example.

In addition, our appraisal system, which was designed with the input of our senior doctors, purposely excluded any consideration of number of private patients or earning capacity of a doctor from our appraisal form. While education and research are also included in the appraisal, the quality of care given to all patients is the key factor determining each doctor’s appraisal rating and hence bonus and annual increment.

This is an ethos which permeates all departments and all medical and paramedical staff.

If the block budget runs out before the end of the financial year, which has happened before, NNI continues to function as usual, knowing full well that at SingHealth cluster HQ someone will have to find some way to keep us going until the next financial year.

I personally treat my subsidised and full-paying (i.e., private) patients with the same care as do all my doctors. The main advantage of being a full-paying patient is that you can specify the doctor of your choice.

I cannot overemphasise the importance of those in charge of the hospitals determining the ethos of their individual hospital.

At the end of the day, if you are recognised and rewarded by the quality of patient care you provide and not how many private patients you have, you will naturally put patient care as the first priority.

Assoc Prof Lee Wei Ling
National Neuroscience Institute